Third stimulus check for $2,000 or $1,400? Here’s what could really happen


President-elect Joe Biden supports third stimulus check, but there’s conflict brewing.

Sarah Tew/CNET

For weeks now, leading US politicians have called for a $2,000 stimulus check, and on Thursday evening, it may become more clear what that means. Less than a week before his inauguration on Jan. 20, President-elect Joe Biden will reveal more details of his economic stimulus plans for 2021, including a stimulus package “in the trillions of dollars,” a potential return to a $600 weekly unemployment bonus and a third stimulus check.

$600 is simply not enough when you have to choose between paying rent or putting food on the table. We need $2,000 stimulus checks,” Biden tweeted Jan. 10.

But there’s a growing understanding that the third stimulus check may not itself be for $2,000 per person, which would give qualified adults a total of up to $2,600 with the second and third payments combined. Instead, Biden may propose a third stimulus check for up to $1,400 per eligible adult, a figure that would “raise” the $600 second stimulus check maximum to $2,000 between the two payments. Here’s everything we know so far.

How and why a $2,000 or $1,400 stimulus check could happen

Ironically, President Donald Trump — who was impeached on Wednesday and faces his second trial in the Senate — set serious discussions of a $2,000 stimulus check in motion when he initially delayed signing December’s stimulus bill and demanded to raise the $600 ceiling on the second stimulus check to $2,000.

“We will get that done,” Senate Minority (soon to be Majority) Leader Chuck Schumer wrote Jan. 12 in a letter to Democratic colleagues, according to multiple reports. With a soon-to-be Democrat-led Senate, Schumer is counting on pushing the legislation through. 

Biden had already made it clear he supports a third stimulus check, but before last week, had shied away from committing to a sum. In his early presidential campaign, he had suggested a $1,200 stimulus check, modeled on the first, but more recently, he left the question open, calling the exact total “a negotiating issue.”

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What could stand in the way of a ‘$2,000’ third stimulus check?

Many Republicans are expect to object to a new, high-priced stimulus package, especially one with that could more than double the size of the $600 stimulus check. With the Senate evenly divided and incoming Vice President-elect Kamala Harris set to act as a tiebreaker, opposition from just one Democratic senator could sink the party’s hopes for a large third stimulus check.

One possible objector could be Sen. Joe Manchin, a centrist Democrat from West Virginia, who expressed concern multiple times about the cost of a third stimulus check and suggested the financial aid could be better focused on those most in need of the money.

“Absolutely not. No. Getting people vaccinated, that’s job No. 1,” Manchin told The Washington Post on Jan. 8 when asked about more stimulus payments. “How is the money that we invest now going to help us best to get jobs back and get people employed? And I can’t tell you that sending another check out is gonna do that to a person that’s already got a check.”

Shortly after, Manchin appeared to have softened his stance. According to NBC News, Manchin’s spokesperson said he was “open” to hearing President-elect Joe Biden’s case for a larger stimulus check, but prioritizes vaccine distribution. Funding to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine is also on Biden’s agenda for a large stimulus bill. Manchin repeated his views Jan. 10.


How much money could a third stimulus check really bring your household? We’ll soon see.

Sarah Tew/CNET

How a third stimulus check could deliver more money

A larger maximum total per person is the obvious way your household would see more money in a third check compared to the second, but there’s more to it than that. Since the upper limit for a second check is $600 per adult, with an extra $600 per child dependent, the way the IRS’ formula works out, more people hit the upper income limit for receiving a second payment, which means they won’t actually qualify to get any stimulus money at all.

A third stimulus check could:

Here are other ways a third stimulus check could put more money in your pocket.

Other funding that could be in a new stimulus bill

We already know some of Biden’s objectives for a new stimulus package, which he shared as part of his presidential campaign trail. There’s a good chance that he’d push Congress to revisit those agenda items, in addition to several programs left out of December’s $900 billion bill by both Republicans and Democrats.

They could include measures like:

  • A larger third stimulus check that could reach more people.
  • Larger federal unemployment checks past March.
  • Renewing the eviction ban past Jan. 31.
  • Student loan deferrals or forgiveness for public schools.
  • More money for state, local and tribal governments.
  • More money for contact tracing, coronavirus testing and COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
  • Liability protection for businesses against coronavirus-related lawsuits.

For more information, here’s how to calculate your second stimulus check paymentwho may not qualify for a check and a primer on the five different priority groups.


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